The Role of the Local Authority with Schools
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
The Chair welcomed Sarah Callaghan, Director of Education and Skills Lancashire County Council, to the meeting.
A presentation was provided to the committee and aimed to do three things:
· Set out what Local Authorities had the legal powers to do to support schools and settings.
· Present an overview of how these duties were met in Lancashire where a number of schools were no longer maintained by the Local Authority.
· Set out how schools and settings would be supported to open fully this September within the scope of the local framework the Local Authority operated in.
Members were informed that the Academy Act 2010 gave powers to all schools to choose whether to become a single sponsored academy or part of a multi-academy trust which was a group of academies with a shared executive governing body. This had seen a shift towards a more autonomous school system and a move towards sector led school improvement.
The Local Authority still retained some statutory duties that it had to fulfil and some formal powers for intervening in some underperforming maintained schools. As the 'champion of the learner' the Local Authority continued to play a unique role in understanding and shaping arrangements to meet the holistic needs of its citizens.
In all schools regardless of status, governing bodies were responsible for:
- The appointment of the head teacher(in maintained schools the Local Authority must advise but not make the decision).
- Performance management of the head teacher.
- Financial management.
- Accountability for use of the pupil premiumto support eligible pupils.
The committee was informed that throughout the Covid-19 crisis, 500 of Lancashire's schools had remained open. Across the county attendance numbers varied but the attendance figures throughout this period were comparatively higher than other neighbouring authorities especially regarding vulnerable children.
The Local Authority had provided detailed advice to support schools in applying guidance from central government regarding lockdown and the wider opening of schools. It had also supported schools in providing free school meals and emergency PPE.
In terms of the opening of schools in September, the Local Authority had worked with Public Health colleagues and Social Care colleagues. Guidance had been developed around access to testing in localities and also developed transport arrangements guidance which had been shared with all schools.
Comments and questions raised by the committee were as follows:
· Regarding children using public transport for travelling to school, parents had raised concerns over this and that some of the guidance had been confusing. In response it was confirmed that two areas of funding had come through to support transport. One to support public networks of transport and one to support the county council's commissioned transport. Schools had direct contact with officers in the transport service for any concerns with the guidance. Schools must have a register of all pupils using public transport and commissioned transport and submit this to the county council.
· In terms of face masks the advice was for children to wear them on public transport. However on the county council's commissioned transport, it was not mandatory at the present time to wear face masks.
· Members were informed that the relationship between the county council and academies was as positive as it was with maintained schools.
· Through the LASSH (Lancashire Association of Secondary School Headteachers), the local authority worked closely with secondary schools. It was also acknowledged that the secondary schools were positive about sharing their data and working together.
· It was noted that outcomes for SEND children tended to be poorer in areas of deprivation and Advisors have had to be used more effectively in those areas to challenge the outcomes of vulnerable children.
· It was stated that governors had a critical role to play in schools especially in support of headteachers. Leadership was the key factor in terms of school improvement and the local authority have regular and consistent dialogue with governors. Although it was acknowledged that dialogue could be improved.
Resolved: That the report be noted.
Date of decision: 02/09/2020
Decided at meeting: 02/09/2020 - Education and Children's Services Scrutiny Committee
- Verbal Report